World of Winter in Grand Rapids

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Story by Culture Editor Leah Ash

The winter season is often gloomy, filled with freezing cold temperatures and cloudy days. 

Luckily, Grand Rapids is home to World of Winter, the largest winter festival in the Midwest. The festival is filled with free events, lots of entertainment, and amazing artwork installations all throughout the city. 

The festival began in early January and will continue until early March. This includes the outdoor art installations as well as the events that will be held until spring returns. 

Art installations are widely varied in terms of design and size, ranging from window art in local businesses to huge sculptures on bridges and sidewalks. Many of the pieces light up at night in an array of colors, making them even more fun to check out with a snowy backdrop and dark sky. 

One such glowing piece is “Angels of Freedom,” located on the Blue Bridge. This piece, created by the OGE GROUP, is a large pair of white angel wings with a halo. Lights are constantly changing color while reflecting on the piece, making a statement as people pose in front of the wings — turning themselves into angels. 

Another glowing piece is “Manidoo Bawating,” which was created by the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians and local artist Alan Compo. This metal sculpture is 11 feet tall and is designed to honor the important symbols and unique traditions of the Native American community that lived in the Great Lakes region. This art installation is located in Sixth Street Park. 

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Many of the art installations are also interactive, getting visitors a chance to be a part of the experience. “The Singing Tree,” located at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, is an installation that works off light and sound. The exhibit only operates after dark and it lights up in response to noise — talking, clapping, singing — the tree will light up. 

Aside from the amazing art displayed throughout the festival, there are also plenty of free events that everyone can enjoy. 

As you explore the festival, participate in the Scavenger Hunt: WOW Edition. Completing the missions takes a couple of hours to do, so dress warm and head out with your team for a chance to win other prizes. 

The festival is also hosting plenty of walking tours, so people can pick the tour and time that best suits them. This includes Ice Sculpture Walking Tours, Black History Walking Tours, Art Installation Walking Tours, and more. 

Keep an eye on the website for more events, as they are subject to change due to weather: